@Work Advice: When interoffice relations go to pot


Karla Miller (Deb Lindsey/FOR THE WASHINGTON POST)
March 22, 2012

Reader: I work in a building shared by a number of offices, with shared bathrooms located on each floor. I like, when nature calls, to take the stairs to a different floor to have a little activity in my day. My trouble is with the workers on this other floor. I’ve received huffy under-the-breath remarks that I should “use my own bathroom” and even had a woman shout out that no one was to go in because “that person” was in there. To address the obvious question, I don’t think it’s that I’m especially odoriferous. I think it’s that other offices on this floor have been empty for a while, and the women there have come to feel it is their personal bathroom. I’ve started going to a different floor, but I keep wanting to defend my pretty innocuous behavior. Should I send a note? I’ve heard of people who think their [output] doesn’t stink, but I never expected to encounter a whole office of them.

Karla: Stay out of the ladies’ room, sir. That’s just creepy.

Kidding.

To me, a bathroom stall is a tiled TARDIS whose tenants disappear from this plane of existence. Auditory or olfactory evidence to the contrary is to be disregarded — provided you otherwise follow campsite etiquette and leave the site at least as clean as you found it.

If you’re not doing anything in “their” bathroom that you wouldn’t do in yours or using supplies they have to pay for, you have every right to avail yourself of the facilities. But having rights is easier than asserting them.

If your goal is to send a message, I’m sure passiveaggressivenotes.com would succeed where Hallmark has failed. But if your true goal is to be more active, take the stairs to another floor and use “your” bathroom on the return trip.

***

Reader: I share a thin office wall with a colleague in another department. This colleague doesn’t simply have an exuberant laugh. She brays. Her braying is her thing — it’s not going anywhere. It’s loud, jarring and sends me into a bad mood. Headphones aren’t sufficient. I want to talk to her, but I’ve been told to live with it. Out socially, her laugh would crack me up. In the workplace, not so much. Any ideas for ways to cope?

Karla: Asking her to stifle would likely be awkward and ineffective. She probably couldn’t stop if she tried.

Is changing offices out of the question? Has your boss gotten an earful of what you’re dealing with?

A white-noise machine or small fan might take the edge off (and give you a perpetual “supermodel on a beach” effect).

Speaking of “out socially”: If you got to know her personally, her laugh might grate less ... or more. If all else fails, hide a funny donkey photo on your desk, and focus on it when the braying starts. But be warned: Be sure to keep your [donkey] covered.

Karla Miller lives with her family in South Riding, Va. For 16 years, she has written for and edited tax publications. Send your questions to wpmagazine@washpost.com.

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